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Printing a handheld PC

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ArchiMark Page Icon Posted 2020-07-25 6:25 PM
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Excellent, Roberto!

Armbian is very good for these little guys....

I used it on the Banana Pi UMPC I had....worked quite well.

Thanks for sharing.

Mark
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2020-07-30 9:42 AM
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ArchiMark - 2020-07-25 6:25 PM

Excellent, Roberto!

Armbian is very good for these little guys....

I used it on the Banana Pi UMPC I had....worked quite well.

Thanks for sharing.

Mark


I'm liking Armbian more the longer I use it - pretty impressive effort supporting all these different SBCs too - mostly with little if any help from the manufacturers.

I've now got my speakers working on my 'HPC' - I've gone for a USB DAC and mini amplifier (trying to keep the analogue wiring as short as possible for noise reasons), and managed to fit them both in the lid section. I had to mod the casing of course so I'll need to go back to the model again. Sound is remarkably clear considering the little 20mm speakers - a little 'tinny' of course but should be adequate for videos and system sounds.

Next up - trackball. Wiring first, then figure out how to speak to the GPIO pins on the Pine64 - I understand it's a little different to the Raspberry Pi.
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2020-08-06 11:20 PM
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This just caught my attention. There's a video of a one with PSION keyboard attached to the Zero Terminal.

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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2020-09-13 8:21 PM
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Another update:

Not the progress I was hoping to report, but it is at least moving again.

I've had quite a frustrating time with the software on the Pine64 board and ultimately come to the conclusion that there is no realistic way for me to use the LCD with the board and use a recent Linux kernel - The most recent one that supports it is a heavily modified 3.10.107, which is 3 years old at this point and two major versions behind the current kernel. I'm not comfortable being stuck with this kernel and no real prospect of this changing in the near future - It seems I should have listened more to my concerns about Pine64 leaving all the software support to the community - No criticism of all the work done by their user community but it's just not the same as support by the manufacturer themselves.

So once again I'm moving forward with a different 'brain' for my HPC - I spent yet more time researching this time and settled on the A64-OLinuXino by Olimex. This board is based on the same AllWinner A64 SoC as the Pine64 and specs are pretty similar but it has a couple of advantages:
- Fully supported by the manufacturer with up-to-date Ubuntu images, including crucially support for the LCD they supply. On Linux kernel 5.8.2 at latest release, but I think it's on a later once since I did an update.
- Smaller - Roughly half the board area on the Pine64 but not missing any of the features I'm interested in.
- The manufacturer supplies and supports larger and smaller LCDs (vs. chosen 7") so potential for other variants of the machine in the future, maybe.

So once again it's back to the (CAD) drawing board - A fair bit of work but a job I'm getting quite familiar with! This time I'm getting all of the internal components / software testing done before I do any detailed design work.

I've taken the opportunity to swap out the cheap tablet keyboard, which I was never very happy with, for the keyboard used in the original Asus Eee PC - Remarkably this keyboard is still available new in large quantities from several suppliers and a seller on Tindie has cleverly made a PCB that connects the keyboard ribbon cable to a Teensy microcontroller to turn it into a USB keyboard. Reviews of the Eee PC at the time mentioned the keyboard favourably and I've found the key feel to be very pleasant, even if it is a little old-fashioned looking as it is not the modern 'chiclet' style. Using the Teensy also makes it fully programmable - Useful for adding extra 'Fn' key combinations. This may all be a bit overkill for this machine, but as the keyboard is most of what makes it more than just a tablet I feel it's worth it.

See below for a photo of all the internals of the latest version - This is the last go I'm having at this so I will fully finish it even if there's something major I'm not happy with. There can't be many more obstacles to hit - surely!




Edited by robertojones 2020-09-13 8:23 PM




(HPC Mk4 Internals.jpg)



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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2020-09-22 11:02 PM
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Mini-update on my project:

Testing has been going well, to the point where I'm ready to put in some serious design time on the casing.

Working so far:
- LCD with every Linux kernel I've tried.
- Eee PC keyboard including Fn-key combinations for brightness, sleep and volume control - Brightness and volume controls even have neat little screen overlays provided by the OS.
- Battery charging and power management, integrated with the OS.
- Suspend (only suspend-to-idle at present, but good enough for now).

I'm running Armbian on it at the moment, it's running quite nicely but I'll continue to experiment.

As I said before this one will get fully finished - I'm taking a more cautious approach over any major design decisions and I'll take a little time to document the design and build process as well.
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2020-10-09 11:18 AM
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I found a pretty neat Raspberry pi UMPC project you can buy on a website called shapeways.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/VRK2PTNE4/raspberry-umpc-project

I believe you need to get all the parts listed on that site.

Edited by stingraze 2020-10-09 11:19 AM




(raspberrypi-umpc.jpg)



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hpcboy Page Icon Posted 2020-10-09 11:24 AM
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Shapeway often asks for money. Thingiverse is totally free:
https://www.thingiverse.com/search?q=raspberry+pi+laptop&typ...
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2020-10-17 5:50 AM
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Thought this was cool.

It’s called RasPSION. Seems the hinge is inspired by PSION.
http://fablabsetagaya.com/?p=9033

Make: Japan (more details)
https://makezine.jp/blog/2016/07/raspsion.html


Edited by stingraze 2020-10-17 5:52 AM
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hpcboy Page Icon Posted 2020-10-17 6:15 AM
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Very cool makes indeed. I also found hinges from salvaged/broken laptops super useful for this purpose. The metal industial parts are supposed to work better and be more durable than the plastic prints.

Yesterday I just stared at my old phone (LG Optimus G) and my lonely still boxed Pi4 8GB. They are still working but not the batteries.

And how about those superb touchscreen plus a super tiny touch type keyboard? I got two of this last week for about USD$3 each.


Does this ring a bell to you, HPC fans? It's exactly the same keyboard for those nameless cheapish CE netbooks back in the days.

Back to 3D printing, what's in my mind now is I don't necessarily have to print out everything. Many useful parts can be salvaged from old broken subnotebooks (keyboard, speaker, hinge, screws, even the frames, or the screen if the controller can still be found).

Edited by hpcboy 2020-10-17 6:36 AM
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2020-10-17 11:46 AM
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That sounds like a good idea.
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ArchiMark Page Icon Posted 2020-10-17 11:05 PM
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stingraze - 2020-10-16 9:50 PM

Thought this was cool.

It’s called RasPSION. Seems the hinge is inspired by PSION.
http://fablabsetagaya.com/?p=9033

Make: Japan (more details)
https://makezine.jp/blog/2016/07/raspsion.html


Very cool designs!

Bit steampunk with all the exposed nuts and bolts....

Thanks for sharing.
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ArchiMark Page Icon Posted 2020-10-17 11:07 PM
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hpcboy - 2020-10-16 10:15 PM

Very cool makes indeed. I also found hinges from salvaged/broken laptops super useful for this purpose. The metal industial parts are supposed to work better and be more durable than the plastic prints.

Yesterday I just stared at my old phone (LG Optimus G) and my lonely still boxed Pi4 8GB. They are still working but not the batteries.

And how about those superb touchscreen plus a super tiny touch type keyboard? I got two of this last week for about USD$3 each.

Does this ring a bell to you, HPC fans? It's exactly the same keyboard for those nameless cheapish CE netbooks back in the days.

Back to 3D printing, what's in my mind now is I don't necessarily have to print out everything. Many useful parts can be salvaged from old broken subnotebooks (keyboard, speaker, hinge, screws, even the frames, or the screen if the controller can still be found).


Excellent!

Thanks for sharing.
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2020-12-18 12:01 AM
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Update on my 'HPC' project:

As the lack of updates may suggest, there has not been a lot of progress on this. The latest single board computer I used (OLinuxino) turned out to have some strange overheating / freezing issues, then one of the OS updates stopped the 'wake' function from working - I reached out to the manufacturers and spent a lot of time trying to pin it down but no luck on either front. Other functions kept breaking with OS updates as well. It's been sat doing nothing for a while now and I've stopped design work on the casing as I was pretty sure I'd have to give up on this board as well. To be honest I've been avoiding this project and finding other things to do as I've become a bit disheartened with it.

I've pretty much given up on the ARM boards altogether - As capable as some are, the only one that really functions as a reliable computer with decent support is the Raspberry Pi, and as I've discovered both the Pi 3 and Pi 4 are just too power-hungry (lacking any kind of sleep/suspend) for this kind of application. The other ARM boards I've played with (as well as others I've researched) are either stuck on hopelessly outdated Linux kernels or just don't have support for half the hardware on the board. I don't have the knowledge (or the time to learn) to be able to fix these issues so really if I am to carry on with this project I need to use a device where someone else has figured this stuff out already. So at least for now I'm done.

I'm tentatively exploring the idea of an x86-based board as the 'brains' instead - I picked up a Lattepanda (v1) cheaply and I've been playing with this (on the desk again so far) - There's something quite amusing about Windows 10 on a 7" screen but it's surprisingly usable, then there are of course many Linux distributions that will work. I've not tried Android x86 yet - I think the little Atom chip may struggle a bit. It's nice to have a mainstream OS 'just work'. I've had promising results with power consumption as well - It consumes somewhat more power under load than the ARM boards (as you'd expect) but idle / standby power usage are pretty good. I'll not go too much further with the Lattepanda - I'm happy enough with the idea to go for an x86 board with battery charging next and start to design a complete machine again - There are a few candidates for this but the one I'm most excited about at the moment is the Hackboard 2 - currently being crowdfunded but apparently they will be shipping around early May next year.

So kind of 'back to the drawing board' yet again, but I've learnt enough from the various failures that it still seems mostly worthwhile.

I'm not sure if going x86 takes this too far away from being a HPC, I'd be interested to hear what others think on this - My feeling is that although an ARM processor would be more appropriate, the form factor (wide clamshell centred around a keyboard and touchscreen) would still make it closer to a HPC in form and function than any other class of device. I may be fooling myself here though - As I'm sure most here are aware, there are a good number of devices past and present that meet these criteria and are not identified as HPCs.
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ntware Page Icon Posted 2020-12-18 12:45 PM
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Robert, I’ve always admired your effort in building your own HPC. I wish I had a bit more free time to play around with something like that, but with three kids under 6 running around the house all the time, I feel that any time left after work is totally drained by them. Maybe when they grow a little bit I might put them to help me on a project like that.

Anyway, if I can offer you any suggestion, I would say stay away from the Chinese ARM chips, like the H3, H4, Rockchip, Mediatek etc. They are cheap, but don’t get temped by that. I had a lot of headache with them when I was building an ARM device for work. As you probably know now, support for them is pretty much unexistent. These chips were made to run Android, not Linux (even though Android runs on Linux kernel, they are very different). Therefore, you will only find some sort of support to run Android, and still it will be very crappy. It is not worth the effort.

To create a truly ARM board, you will need to go to a more respected chip manufacturer, like Freescale/NXP or even Broadcom that manufactures the RPi ARM SoC, is closer to the cheaper spectrum, but is still very sturdy and well supported. I honestly think you should insist a bit more on the Pi, especially the Compute Module 4, if you want to make it more professional. That’s a great hardware for a very low price. Going to x86 will give you a lot of problems on power consumption. Peak current on x86 is very high, you will have to build a super nice power supply/battery to hold that. ARM is the way to go for mobile devices.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents on the subject. I’ll keep appreciating your work irregardless of which platform you chose.
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2020-12-18 6:04 PM
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ntware - 2020-12-18 12:45 PM

Anyway, if I can offer you any suggestion, I would say stay away from the Chinese ARM chips, like the H3, H4, Rockchip, Mediatek etc. They are cheap, but don’t get temped by that. I had a lot of headache with them when I was building an ARM device for work. As you probably know now, support for them is pretty much unexistent. These chips were made to run Android, not Linux (even though Android runs on Linux kernel, they are very different). Therefore, you will only find some sort of support to run Android, and still it will be very crappy. It is not worth the effort.


My experience certainly backs this up - both of the non-Pi ARM boards I've tried (Pine A64-LTS and A64-Olinuxino) are based on the Allwinner A64 - For both there has been a lot of effort put into getting recent mainline kernels working on them, but in both cases so much of the hardware isn't working, or is working poorly that they basically don't work for my purposes. Annoying as I know that this was originally a tablet SoC so it ought to be able to handle LCD output, battery management etc. - Again as you mention this would have course have been on Android, and probably only properly supported by the chip manufacturer for one specific (and now badly out of date) kernel version.

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ntware - 2020-12-18 12:45 PM

To create a truly ARM board, you will need to go to a more respected chip manufacturer, like Freescale/NXP or even Broadcom that manufactures the RPi ARM SoC, is closer to the cheaper spectrum, but is still very sturdy and well supported. I honestly think you should insist a bit more on the Pi, especially the Compute Module 4, if you want to make it more professional. That’s a great hardware for a very low price. Going to x86 will give you a lot of problems on power consumption. Peak current on x86 is very high, you will have to build a super nice power supply/battery to hold that. ARM is the way to go for mobile devices.


Everything I've read about the different architectures indicates that performance-per-watt is far better on ARM - my very simple tests on the Atom-based Lattepanda show it drawing noticeably more power than the ARM boards under load (again, as you've said). My problem, at least so far, has been that I couldn't get any of the boards' power consumption sufficiently low when idling / sleeping - The 'instant on' and long standby times was one of things I most liked about HPCs so I would love to get at the very least to a few days in standby.

In the case of the A64-based boards I couldn't achieve this because although the hardware was capable, none of the OSes I've tried could put them in a proper 'suspend' mode. In the case of the Pi it's basically because the SoC has no sleep / suspend capability as it's derived from chips intended for set top boxes rather than portable devices (as I understand it). I don't know if it would be possible to implement this kind of function outside of the SoC itself (say on some sort of carrier board for the Compute Module) but I honestly wouldn't know where to start with trying to do this myself.

Despite what I've just said I am a fan of the Pi, and the Pi-based version of my HPC was definitely my favourite so far. Given that I never got more than 'suspend-to-idle' out of the other two boards it wasn't really much worse in 'standby' power consumption either. This may well have got better in the year or so since I've played with the Pi - The ongoing support by the Pi team has been generally excellent.

I enquired with the Hackboard team about the onboard battery charging, and they said they had designed it with DIY laptop / tablet type applications in mind so I would hope at least their power circuitry can deal with the demand from the CPU - I didn't ask about power consumption but I can probably roughly estimate this from specs of laptops using the same CPU.

I'm probably still leaning more towards at least trying out one of the x86 boards, however I'm tempted now to try both - 'Order' the Hackboard 2 now and while I'm waiting for it to arrive, build a basic machine out of the Pi 4 again (I still have most of the components). Maybe even see what I can do with a Compute Module and carrier board. Then I can compare the two properly.

Thank you for your input - It's very much appreciated! I hope I don't come across as defensive over my decision to try an x86 board, I'm just trying to explain my reasoning here (a lot of which is based on the limits of my abilities) and I'm very happy to be corrected on anything I've got wrong. The only part of this project I could claim to be any sort of expert on is the mechanical design of the case, and even then my background is in very different machines.

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